During that 20-inning loss to the Mets in April of 2010, Tony LaRussa used position players Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather to pitch and lost the game. I said at the time that if then-Mets manager Jerry Manuel had done that, there would be people calling for his job. (Well, more people calling for his job because he was already under siege.)
But because LaRussa is LaRussa, has the reputation he has; the record he has; the Hall of Fame career he has, he gets away with things that other managers wouldn’t.
It’s the same situation with the World Series bullpen mix-up and the freedom Albert Pujols has to call his own hit-and-run plays.
They were mistakes. They happen throughout the course of a season with every team no matter who’s managing, but these were magnified because that might have cost the Cardinals the game and they happened one after the other.
Regardless of your opinion as to whether LaRussa should accord such leeway for a player to call his own risky hit-and-runs, Pujols and LaRussa have both earned the trust to make those decisions.
As for the bullpen gaffe, those that think LaRussa is lying are fools.
He doesn’t have to lie about such a mistake and he took the responsibility on himself. Another manager without such security might’ve said something to inspire accusations of conspiracy because they would have incentive to lie. LaRussa doesn’t.
But still he has to endure the absurd critiques from those in the media who think they know, but don’t know; who have self-created expertise because they understand a series of stats but haven’t the faintest clue of how difficult it is to navigate a roomful of egos; the stifling media; and the competition.
We’ve seen the end result of the “middle-manager” who’s known to be such and hasn’t the experience nor the savvy to handle all aspects of managing in the big leagues.
A.J. Hinch was installed by the Diamondbacks to institute “organizational advocacy”; he’s extremely smart and played in the big leagues, but had zero managerial experience; it was a disaster that cost both Hinch and GM Josh Byrnes their jobs.
Grady Little was fired because, in part, he left Pedro Martinez in too long in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and the Yankees came back and won. But he was already on thin ice because he wasn’t the type of manager who’d adhere to statistics to the degree that the Red Sox wanted and only a World Series win was going to save him.
LaRussa has been managing in the big leagues since 1979. He certainly doesn’t need to formulate cover stories or lie to the likes of those who have all the guts in the world in a blog post or on Twitter, but would faint if they were in that position in the corner of the dugout making decisions that win or lose ballgames.
Because he’s LaRussa, he gets a pass. And he deserves it.